Funded! This project was successfully funded on June 4, 2013.

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An easy to use, affordable, computer controlled mill. Take all your DIY projects further with custom circuits and precision machining.

At Otherfab, we are interested in portable, accessible, computer-controlled machines, and how they can help us design our world. With the ability to make custom circuitry, we can now build our own smart objects - medicine bottles that email reminders, shoes that tell you how fast you went, and even glasses that know when you need to put on sunscreen. The Othermill is our contribution to custom circuit design and the desktop manufacturing revolution.

Thanks and Stretch Goals!

We are incredibly grateful for the support that we have received. We had no idea that we would reach our goal in less than 24 hours. You might be wondering, “if they have already reached their goal, what does my contribution enable?”

JOB CREATION: At $100,000, a job gets created! We can hire another machinist, and we can manufacture your machines faster.

SOFTWARE FEATURES: At $250,000, (first we jump up and down, and then...) we hire a third software engineer. This means the first release of Othercam has even more features and is able to do things (DXF importing, etc) currently planned for future versions.

DOUBLE PRODUCTION: At $500,000, we add a second production line in a larger manufacturing space with more staff. This has the long term effect of establishing our US manufacturing facility, far ahead of schedule. This means we'll be able to increase the speed at which we produce your mills and get them to you faster.

THE DREAM: $1 million. We get back to our mission of “shop class for the 21st century, ahead of schedule.” We began our work as part of a government funded push to revive high school shop class, with a modern twist: tools for digital design and CNC manufacturing. If we reach this goal, we will be able to allocate the time and the staff to create the resources for teaching these skills to the next generation.

Kickstarter campaigns are about so much more than contributions and rewards. They are about doing something together that would have been impossible to do on your own.

What is the Othermill?

The Othermill is a portable, computer controlled, 3-axis mill that is specifically designed for use at home or in a small workspace. Our objective is to build a mill that is compact, clean, and quiet enough for use at home, yet is precise enough for high level electrical and mechanical prototyping work. The Othermill will be at home on your desk, in your workshop, or on your kitchen table.

Our current Othermill prototype
Our current Othermill prototype

What Can You Make With the Othermill?

With our mill, you can produce custom circuit boards quickly and cheaply. You can make all your projects light up, beep, and move. Wearable circuits, custom guitar effects pedals, and quadcopter electronics are all within reach - without waiting for boards to come back from the manufacturer. Even though the Othermill is optimized for cutting circuit boards, it can also cut metal, wood, wax, and plastic. It is great for engraving and milling 3D shapes for jewelry or mold making.

An LED pocket watch made from a custom PCB and a 3D printed body.
An LED pocket watch made from a custom PCB and a 3D printed body.

Printed Circuit Boards

The Othermill was designed with PCBs in mind, and they were the very first thing we tested when we had a working machine. The precision and accuracy of the Othermill allows you to reliably cut 10 mil trace and space on FR-1 PCB stock. You can create custom circuits that fit into odd 3D printed parts, seamlessly integrate electronics into your clothing, and free up your Arduinos for other applications.

Jewelry

Any tool with a 1/8” shank can be used with the Othermill, including all Dremel and Foredom Flex-Shaft accessories. You can use these tools to create complex and beautiful jewelry out of materials that are as varied as brass and birch.

Molds

The Othermill beautifully cuts machining wax. Machining wax is one of our favorite test materials because we can use the mill to cut a positive model from the wax, fill it with silicone, and make molds for almost anything. We’ve been trying our hands at chocolate and ice molds, but you could make figurines, jewelry, or even cast precision parts.

What Makes the Othermill the Premier Desktop Mill?

A number of features set the Othermill apart from other compact computerized mills:

  • You can grab it and take it on the bus, toss it in your trunk, or put it in your bike basket. The Othermill is a ten inch cube and 15 pounds, so it is small and light enough to carry with you. It even has handles.

Forrest and Martine take the Othermill out for a morning stroll.
Forrest and Martine take the Othermill out for a morning stroll.
  • The Othermill is not a kit. It comes fully assembled and ready to use, right out of the box. The Othermill also has a transparent, approachable design that encourages modification.

  • It has a quiet, high speed spindle. Machines can be loud, and we’ve worked to keep noise to a minimum, so that you can work next to the Othermill in comfort. In addition to being quiet, the Othermill’s brushless DC motor ensures a long spindle life. 

  • Any milling tool with a 1/8” diameter shank can be inserted into the spindle. We opted to use a Fairloc collet for tool holding, rather than the more commonly used set screw. The Fairloc collet enables reliable and repeatable tool holding under vibration at high speeds.

  • The frame is packed with innovative features like self-aligning flexure bearing mounts. The Othermill is made from high density polyethylene, which is chemical resistant and moisture proof, leading to a longer lasting machine.

  • You won’t have to worry about your parts breaking down just as you are getting into your project. We have incorporated high performance parts into our design wherever possible. For instance, each linear actuator consists of a stepper motor that is rigidly coupled to a teflon-coated lead screw with an anti-backlash, wear-compensating nut.

  • Our emphasis on noise reduction and high performance parts greatly decreases the vibration of the Othermill. The timing belts in the spindle assembly are an example of a vibration-conscious design decision. Our timing belts have a polyester core, rather than fiberglass, which reduces vibration and noise. Every reduction in vibration leads to an increase in the precision of your machine.

  • You can keep using your favorite CAM (computer aided machining) software if you like, because the Othermill uses the TinyG motion controller. We love TinyG because it's open source firmware and has a built-in g-code interpreter. TinyG also uses a USB interface, so it’s easy to connect the Othermill to your computer.

The Othermill is a high-speed, precision CNC milling machine that delivers quality at an affordable price.

A CAD model of our pre-production Othermill design.
A CAD model of our pre-production Othermill design.

How Do You Use the Othermill?


Right now, the Othermill can use any CAM processor that is compatible with the open source TinyG controller board from Synthetos. This includes tgFX, as well as several 3rd party CAM interfaces. You can use any software that outputs standard g-code in arc/mm.

However, we think machining should be simpler than using the typical CAM software. Currently, CAM software practically requires a degree to use. To encourage and enable more people to use CNC machines, we're creating simple software that eases the transition from digital design to 3D object.

We're working hard on an integrated front end for the Othermill. Our software is called Othercam. When the Othermills ship, Othercam will be able to import both EagleCAD board files and SVG files. This means you can use Illustrator (or any other vector based editor) and EagleCAD to design both shapes and circuits to cut on the Othermill.


A screenshot of Othercam, ready to cut a board.
A screenshot of Othercam, ready to cut a board.

Our direct modeling interface syncs up with the machine in real time to show you what's currently happening with the machine and what's about to happen.

As Othercam develops, we'll be adding more CAM processors to handle other file formats. We're a small software team, but we're extremely passionate about making machines that are simple to understand and easy to use.

The Othermill, hooked up to a computer running Othercam and ready to cut.
The Othermill, hooked up to a computer running Othercam and ready to cut.

Technical Specifications

Why we need your help

We’re a small technology company that wants to bring a high quality and affordable product to market. We’ve created a fully functional prototype and have spent the last several months putting it through its paces. Now we just need to manufacture the mills. We’ve surveyed a lot of options for manufacturing and decided that the only way to provide a reliable machine is to use high performance parts. The only way to include these components affordably is to place bulk orders. We believe in the utility of the Othermill and know that once it exists as a product with customers, we can gain even more momentum and make it even better.

With your support, we will finally have the chance to turn our hard work into machines for other people.

We will do three things:

  • Order volume batches of our materials and motors at significant discounts. (It is SO expensive to buy two motors at a time.)

  • Hire our manufacturing engineer full time. (We are really happy to have her!)

  • Pour gasoline on the CAM software development fire, by hiring another developer to help Mike optimize the path planning code.

Show your support with a t-shirt. Pick a design based on the original patent art of our favorite tools: the claw hammer, bit brace, caliper and plumb bob. Shirts will be heather grey with oxblood graphics (see claw hammer image for example).
Show your support with a t-shirt. Pick a design based on the original patent art of our favorite tools: the claw hammer, bit brace, caliper and plumb bob. Shirts will be heather grey with oxblood graphics (see claw hammer image for example).

Delivery Timeline

Otherfab has been working on desktop CNC machines for over a year. Our final Othermill prototype has been in testing for the last two months, and we are confident in our design. We are updating the frame for the final product (Did we mention the handles? We love the handles!), but the guts will stay the same. We will continue to improve our design as we set up our factory and ramp up production.

We’ll begin shipping Othermills in August 2013. That’s so soon! All of our sourcing has been lined up, and we have purchased some parts that are hard to find on a tight schedule, but we need to place final orders for everything else. Production of Othermills will begin as soon as the Kickstarter has successfully completed, and we will continue until all machines have shipped. Once a machine is built and put through its quality control paces, it will be out the door and on its way. Our estimates point to an in-house production capacity of 10 - 20 machines per week.

Please note that shipping is not included in reward prices. We want to keep your shipping costs as low as possible, so we will be in touch after the Kickstarter ends with individual shipping prices. Please see the FAQ for more details. Thanks!

Who We Are

Otherfab is a team inside Otherlab, a small incubator and research lab that was founded by Dr. Saul Griffith. From our converted organ factory in San Francisco, Otherlab works on software tools for computer aided design and manufacturing, robotics, energy, and education. You can see some of our recent work at http://www.otherlab.com/projects.html.

We’re the Otherfab team. Pleased to make your acquaintance. We’re super excited to be working on these machines and hope you love them.

Clockwise from top left: Danielle Applestone, Mike Estee, Jonathan Ward, Forrest Green, Alana Yoel, and Martine Neider.
Clockwise from top left: Danielle Applestone, Mike Estee, Jonathan Ward, Forrest Green, Alana Yoel, and Martine Neider.

The MTM Snap design used in our prototype was developed by Jonathan Ward at MIT's Center for Bits and Atoms, and we thank them for their support. We’ve also had help along the way from the kind folks at Synthetos and Shopbot. Our intern, Jake Read made the beautiful video at the top of the page with music from Joseph Wharton. Thanks everyone!

Risks and challenges Learn about accountability on Kickstarter

There are two main risks with the Othermill project: supply chain and machine manufacturing.

The supply chain risk looks like this: the best linear actuator motors for our machine are made by one company, and they have a patent on the design. If we run into trouble with the manufacturer of the motors, we have other options, but we would be making an unknown sacrifice in the lifetime of our machine. We currently have a great relationship with our motor manufacturer and barring any natural disasters, we foresee no disruptions in our ability to obtain products from them.

On the manufacturing front, it’s important for you to know that we make these machines ourselves, in our shop in San Francisco. This gives us extreme flexibility for design and manufacturing optimizations. We can also get products into the hands of customers without having to wait weeks or months for overseas shipping. However, we are new to the mass production game, and the Othermill will be the first commercial product to come out of Otherfab. We are smart, capable people, with years of prototyping experience, and we are excited by the new challenges of coordinating manufacturing, inventory, and juggling customers.

FAQ

  • Some of it is. That’s why we include non-toxic PCB FR-1 boards with every mill. NEVER EVER mill anything with fiberglass in it, including PCB FR-4 stock. Fiberglass dust is poison. Seriously, it killed my grandpa (this is Martine talking), don’t do it.

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  • While the Othermill is light for a mill, it is still a rather large and heavy package. By charging for shipping individually, we can keep your shipping costs as low as possible. We estimate $50 dollars for shipping and handling to all places within the continental US. Alaska, Hawaii, and Puerto Rico will all be a bit more. Once the Kickstarter ends, we will direct you to a page on our website to pay for shipping.

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  • International shipping is a bit more complicated. Not only will international customers be responsible for shipping costs, they will also be responsible for all customs and duties costs. Depending on location, customs and duties can come to $500. For more information, see http://ircalc.usps.gov and https://www.usps.com/ship/can-you-ship-it-internationally.htm (click on the postal explorer link). We will send you to the same page on our website to pay for shipping and do everything we can to make it as painless as possible.

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  • Yes. We've opened up our "FACILITATOR" donation level for International customers who would like a machine. You will be responsible for the shipping and customs/duty fees for your country.

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  • Computer Aided Machining (CAM) software is what runs the Othermill and translates your CAD drawings into g-code that the machine can read. The Othermill supports any program, such as VCarve, that outputs g-code in arc/mm.

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  • Othercam runs on Mac OS 10.7 or higher. However, you can run other CAM programs using tgFX. For more information see https://github.com/synthetos/tgFX.

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  • We will offer a 90 day warranty. You will receive a working machine, and if anything goes wrong, contact us through our support email address. We will help as best we can. Part of the benefit of Kickstarter is that you will be in our first set of customers, and you will get direct support from us.

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  • Absolutely. We are setting up technical support through our website and it will be ready prior to our first shipment. If you have any support questions now, please contact support@Otherfab.com.

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  • We don’t know yet. There are a number of factors that influence the retail price. One of them is demand. Once we have an idea of demand, we will better be able to quantify the price.

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  • Any bit with a ⅛” shank can be used. We’ve used bits as small as 0.010” diameter to good effect.

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  • The smallest bit we’ve used has a diameter of 0.010”. We’ve been playing with super small bits and the mill had performed admirably.

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  • The Othermill is super quiet. We haven’t measured it exactly yet but it’s about the volume of an electric toothbrush.

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  • Othercam can import Eagle BRD files and svgs. If you know how to use Eagle, Illustrator, Inkscape or any other vector drawing program you can make things using the Othermill.

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  • Good question! The cutting forces generated by micro-endmills are very small, so we use double sided Scotch-brand sticky tape. This has the added benefit of holding small boards in place when cutting through the FR-1 without requiring tabs.

    For really heavy jobs, and oddly shaped parts, we use craft hot glue. It holds down tight, and unlike metal clamps, is less likely to break an endmill if one crashes into the glue.

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  • We are working on double sided PCB functionality for Othercam. It probably won’t be ready for the initial release but it is in the works.

    UPDATE: Because double sided boards are awesome, they will be part of the initial release.

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  • Not at the moment. However, they are next on the development list.

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  • Not at the moment. Let us know if you want it and we’ll bump it up the list.

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  • Not at this time. There are open source CAM programs like tgFX that run on these platforms.

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  • The maximum traverse speed (rapid) is 1,000 mm/min and the maximum spindle speed is 12,000 rpm. Cutting speed depends on materials and tools.

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  • Not at a speed you’d want to wait for, plus you’d need coolant and that just gets gross.

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  • Depending on the type of bit or other accessory you buy they cost anywhere from $5-50. They are generally in the $10 range.

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  • Not really. The metals and plastics are those used in the food industry. The lubricants used aren’t. We hope one day to source food safe lubricants, so you can all cut the chocolate bars of your dreams.

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  • We are planning on making a vacuum kit that will be sold separately.

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  • By project models, we mean models for projects you can make on a CNC mill. We don't mean the CAD models for the Othermill. Sorry if there's been any confusion.

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    ADVOCATE - You receive a limited edition, extra hot Otherfab t-shirt.

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    DEMO NIGHT - Learn how to use the Othermill from the experts, the folks who designed it. Class will be held at our shop in San Francisco.

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    WEARABLE ELECTRONICS! - Work with our engineers to make custom PCBs for awesome wearables projects. Bring clothes you want to light up and make beep. Materials Included. Class will be held at our shop in San Francisco

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    CATALYST - Be an adventurous early adopter! Get your Othermill first. Includes two bits to get you started. You also get a thumbdrive of 3D models to help you begin creating projects.

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    BUILDER - Get your Othermill early, be in the second batch made! Includes two bits to get you started. You'll also get a thumbdrive of 3D models to help you begin creating projects.

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    FACILITATOR - An Othermill at our special introductory Kickstarter price. Includes two bits to get you started. In addition, you'll receive a thumbdrive of fun starter projects.

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    ELECTRONICS TINKERER - You receive an Othermill, everything that's in our basic electronics kit, plus a USB microscope! We'll set you up with some PCB board blanks and bits for the machine, so you can be making right out of the box.

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    PIONEER - An Othermill with a starter kit of our favorite materials. Includes twenty non-toxic PCB board blanks, two machining wax blanks, and five birch plywood blanks - all sized specifically for your Othermill. Includes a selection of bits to get you started.

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    CHAMPION - Customized Othermill with a backplate featuring your name or logo, plus a starter kit of materials. You will receive one of the first batch!

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Funding period

- (30 days)